Thesis Statement

Thesis and Argument: Answers the inquiry question with a thesis statement that is historically defensible and supported by available evidence


The Thesis

Every history paper has a big idea that serves as an umbrella for all the evidence included in the essay. That umbrella is the argument, or the position the paper aims to prove within the essay.  The thesis is the sentence that sums up the historical argument.  The Common Core State Standards list the claim, or thesis, as a key element of writing in the history classroom.  Beginning, in 9th grade, students should start to develop counterclaims.

Through their writing, students are expected to introduce their thesis, and use it to organize their evidence in the essay.  The historical thinking concept should be incorporated into the thesis statement and reflected in the analysis throughout the paper. As a student’s writing develops, their thesis statements will reflect a greater knowledge of the subject at hand, a complexity of the topic under study, and the relationship between their ideas to other relevant issues or trends.

Modeling Thesis Development

When introducing students to writing thesis statements, it is important that they understand that thesis statements are drawn from an analysis of evidence. After conducting an inquiry based on primary and secondary sources, model how to move from the inquiry question, through a summary of evidence derived from relevant sources, to a draft of a thesis statement. Then create opportunities for the student to receive feedback to further refine and develop the thesis.

4 Steps for Developing a Thesis Statement:

  1. Rewrite the question in your own words and determine the criteria for analysis (categories). Remember to consider the historical thinking concept and how this will guide the argument.
  2. Review the related evidence. Select relevant and historically significant evidence that addresses the question.
  3. Sort evidence according to the criteria of analysis (categories), and organize the categories to best develop the argument in the paper.
  4. State your thesis clearly and concisely.

Example from a 10th-grade Classroom

Inquiry Question: Who started the Russian Revolution?

(Argumentative/Cause & Consequence)  

Summary of Relevant Evidence from Primary and Secondary Documents:

  • Women initiated a communal strike in the capital protesting the war and food shortages.
  • The army supported the Russian people’s street protests against the Czar.
  • Soldiers at the front turned against the authority of the state. 

Student Writing: First Draft


Student Writing: Final Thesis